Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wing cracks take out half of A-10 fleet

Air Force Times

By Bruce Rolfsen - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Dec 7, 2008 9:58:02 EST

It will likely take six months before the entire A-10 Thunderbolt fleet is back in the sky, Air Force officials said.

As of early December, 168 attack jets — nearly half the service’s 356 Warthogs — remain grounded because of wing cracks. Those planes should be repaired by June, said Maj. David Ruth, A-10 weapons system team chief at Air Combat Command headquarters, Langley Air Force Base, Va.

The grounding began Oct. 3 after inspectors at Ogden Air Logistics Center in Utah, where A-10s are sent for major overhauls and upgrades, raised concerns about wing cracks.

Inspectors found breaks in both wings near the center panels of the landing gear trunnions. The cracks were inside a portion of the wing where base-level maintainers rarely check.

Those concerns resulted in the Oct. 3 grounding order for 129 jets and a mandate to inspect other A-10s. Additional inspections and concerns about planes not covered by the Oct. 3 order pushed the total higher, reaching 191 jets in mid-November. Repairs and completed checks reduced the number of grounded jets to 168.

While inspection teams open wings and patch cracks, A-10 pilots have seen their flying hours fall.

The bottom line for the Air Force is A-10 pilots keeping their basic qualifications up to date, said Lt. Col. David Trucksa, ACC's A-10 subject matter expert.

To ensure pilots are getting at least minimum flying hours and to balance the A-10 shortage among squadrons, about 40 pilots have traveled to fly out of other A-10 bases, Trucksa said. Also, 15 jets were temporarily shifted among units.

Meanwhile, training is on hold for student pilots slated to attend the A-10 class set to start in January at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Trucksa said. Students will not get orders to report to the school until instructors are certain there will be enough planes.

In mid-November, a training team from Ogden traveled to Moody Air Force Base, Ga., home of the largest Thunderbolt unit on the East Coast, to teach maintainers from across the service how to look for the cracks and repair them, Ruth said.

Because the minute cracks cannot be visually spotted, the inspection includes running an electrical current through metal parts to determine crack locations. Air Force officials estimate inspections and repairs will take about seven to 10 days per A-10 plane.


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